Texarkana, AR repeals LGBT protection ordinance

Tim Johnson, a member of the Texarkana Board of Directors, was M-130's sponsor. Official photo.

By Rob Howard
Associate Editor

In January, the Texarkana, Arkansas City Council passed an anti-discrimination ordinance that prohibited the city, and businesses contracting with the city, from any discrimination, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The vote on Ordinance M-130 was unanimous.

KTBS3, a television station in Shreveport, Louisiana, said, “a group called, ‘Repeal 130’ spoke out against the policy and petitioned for the issue to go before voters. “

On Tuesday, voters voted to repeal the ordinance by a margin of 3 to 1. The Texarkana Gazette reported “The vote came after weeks of polarizing public debate. M-130 proponents argued it was a progressive acknowledgment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights that would attract business to the city. Critics focused on the claim that it would allow transgender people to use the public restrooms of their choice, which they decried as an indecent danger to women and children.

“’Whatever the result, it's the will of the people, and that's how we will conduct business,’ Ward 3 Director Tim Johnson, M-130's original sponsor, said this morning.”

KTBS3 quoted opponents and proponents of the repeal, “’We're just overcome with gratitude and emotion that the people of Texarkana, Arkansas have taken a stand,’ said Richard Wagnon, Repeal 130.

"’When you're doing what's right you don't quit and we're not disheartened. This is the first step. It ended how we thought it would,’ said Mark Vaughan, Keep 130.’

The Human Rights Campaign blasted the repeal on its website: “’The Board of Directors of Texarkana unanimously passed a non-discrimination ordinance earlier this year, after local residents and groups spent months pushing for its passage,’ said Kendra R. Johnson, state director of HRC Arkansas. ‘This ordinance was repealed only because anti-equality individuals came into Texarkana and created a campaign of fear that distorts the reality of the ordinance. We remain committed to ensuring that every LGBTQ Arkansan has full legal protections, with no exceptions.’

“When sponsoring the bill, City Director Tim Johnson said the ‘sole intent’ of the ordinance was to put Texarkana in the best position to attract new industry and business. The ordinance protects city employees, vendors, and contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and prohibits discrimination against recipients of city services based on the same characteristics.

“Since its passage, outside groups and lawyers opposing the measure have distorted the intent and purpose of the law, and used harmful anti-transgender language and scare tactics. HRC will continue to push for comprehensive protections for LGBTQ citizens on a local, city, state and federal level.

The Gayly – June 29, 2016 @ 1:40 p.m.